Opposition scores big in Turkish polls - GulfToday

Opposition scores big in Turkish polls

Ekrem Imamoglu

CHP leader Ekrem Imamoglu won the mayoral contest in Istanbul, and emerged as the most likely person to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The opposition, Republican People’s Party (CHP) won the majority of mayoral seats in the nationwide local elections in Turkey, including that of the most populous and prestigious Istanbul. CHP leader Ekrem Imamoglu won the mayoral contest in Istanbul, and emerged as the most likely person to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). Erdogan speaking after the poll results came said this was a “turning point”, and said “If we made a mistake, we will fix it.  If there is anything missing, we will complete it.”  Imamoglu said in his victory speech, “Tonight, 16 million Istanbul citizens sent a message to both our rivals and the president.” He has also declared, “The period of one-person rule has ended as of today.”  The defeat of Erdogan and AKP is being attributed to the cost-of-living crisis and 70 per cent inflation. Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of political risk constancy Teneo, said, “I think it’s mainly about the economy and in particular the inflation..story. I think voters decided to punish Erdogan for these reasons.”  

There was an increase in the number of female mayors in this election. It has gone up to 11 of 81 cities from four last time. And many of them won the mayoral contests in different parts of the country, the western province of Aydin, the southeastern cities of Diyarbakir and Gaziantep, Cenral Anatolian province of Eskesehir, and Tekirdag in the northwest. The proportion of women in parliament and in local government still remains small, but things seem to be changing. 

More importantly, the domination of Erdogan and his party, the AKP, seems to have run its course. People are quite tired of his conservative stance and his Islamisation project. An AKP voter, who voted for the party in the 15 years, accountant Onur Hizmetci, 42, says, “We didn’t vote for (AKP) obviously due to the economic conditions, and promises that were not kept. He also pointed out, “All parties need to move away from polarization and do something for our country with unity. People are sick of fighting and arguing.” There is then an Erdogan-fatigue in Turkey, and it is reflected in these local elections. Erdogan won the presidential election last May because the vote share of the smaller but significant parties accrued to Erdogan. There was a close contest for the presidency as such.  

It has to be conceded that Erdogan had dominated Turkish politics for two decades and there was no serious challenge to him. There is speculation in the political circles in the country that this election result might create a hurdle for Erdogan’s plans to change the constitution and extend his term beyond 2028. Though AKP has a majority in parliament, it is not sufficient for a major change like the introduction of a new constitution. It is also evident that the CHP has made inroads into conservative hinterland beyond secular bastions like Istanbul. Imamoglu has managed to reach beyond the secular vote, and he is emphasizing the principles of democracy, equality and freedom. Even Erdogan said that the election was a victory for Turkey’s democracy. It is important that Turkey’s politicians from opposed ideologies believe in the modern nation-state concept of Turkey, and it adheres to the ideals of the architect of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal. The political pendulum seems to be swinging back, away from the Erdogan and AKP view of politics. But the opposition is not talking in terms of the restoration of secularism. The opposition is in a more conciliatory mode, and it is talking in terms of inclusivity. The old battles appear to be over, and the country’s politicians are turning a new page.  

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